Game 26 Recap: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!
It took a shootout to do it, but the Blue Jackets won their final divisional series game against the Detroit Red Wings, extended their points streak to 7 games, and the win streak to 5 games, capping off a 4-0-1 run against Detroit in 2013.
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 8th wonder of the world. The flow of the century, oh it's timeless, HOV! Thanks for coming out tonight. You could've been anywhere in the world, but you're here with me!"
After slamming the door on the Red Wings yesterday afternoon, the Blue Jackets knew this was going to be a tough test. The Red Wings couldn't recover the season series, but they could certainly deny the Blue Jackets the opportunity to extend their NHL leading win streak.
Jumping on the Wings early, the Jackets dominated a scoreless first period, winning the battles on the boards and taking a decisive lead on faceoffs. The pressure was obvious, and unlike so many games in their history, this time the Red Wings would crack first. In the opening minutes of the second period, Derick Brassard would come charging down the boards with space, and decided to throw the puck on net instead of going for the pass. The decision paid off with a bullet that cracked past Howard high glove side, opening the scoring for the Jackets.
Unfortunately, Jakub Kindl would answer back on the next possession. Pavel Datsyuk would pick the puck away from Matt Calvert, then worked around Cam Atkinson and sent the puck up to Kindl for a one-timer that Bob simply had no chance on.
Fortunately, R.J. Umberger had a surprising answer. After a series of mistakes with the puck, Henrik Zetterberg would cough the biscuit up right in front of Umberger, and he wasted no time, firing a hard shot on net that also went top corner for a 2-1 lead.
The Jackets would continue to press Howard, but started to get themselves in trouble late in the period. The press from the Red Wings was part of it, but a lack of discipline also played into a slash on Ryan Johansen in the final minute, and R.J. Umberger was unfortunately victim to the new delay of game rules when he slipped on the ensuing faceoff, put his hand down to steady himself, and was whistled for attempting to close his hand on the puck.
(That's the official version, anyhow. Still looked to me like he brushed the puck with the outside of his glove trying to stay upright, but it is what it is.)
The PK would get them to the third period, but Johan Franzen would tie the game on the two man advantage in the opening 30 seconds of the final frame, though the PK would prevent the Wings from extending their lead.
The momentum swung hard in Detroit's favor, but Sergei Bobrovsky was there to keep the Blue Jackets in it, making some huge saves until a Derek MacKenzie fight with Brendan Smith put a spark back into the Jackets. Finally driving to the net in the final minutes of regulation, Vinny nearly ended the game in regulation with a brilliant doorstep play, but he couldn't corral his own rebound before being knocked to the ice.
Time would run out, giving the Jackets a point in each of their last 7 games, and the opportunity to close out the series with a win.
OT would bring a couple of heartstopping opportunites for the WIngs, including an insane save by Bob, while Matt Calvert and Vinny Prospal both had near-miss moments against Jimmy Howard. Five minutes of 4 on 4 wouldn't settle the matter,
Pavel Datsyuk would start slow, then slam a fast shot through Bob's legs, but Ryan Johansen answered with an insanely dirty move, sliding across the top of the slot before roofing the puck home.
Damien Brunner had the next opportunity, but Bob snapped his glove out with authority to deny the shot, and Matt Calvert was up for the Jackets as the second shooter. Trying to describe his moves is like trying to define a Picasso using braille, but he made a series of slick dekes to pull Howard out and to the right before suddenly reversing left and sinking the dagger.
Henrik Zetterberg would shoot to keep Detroit alive, but Bob challenged him aggressively before making the shoulder save to seal the victory.
The winning streak is now five games, and the Jackets nailed the coffin lid shut in their final divisional game vs. the Wings.
Final Score: Jackets 3 - Red Wings 2 (SO)
- Sergei Bobrovsky - Detroit could easily have taken this game over, but Bob kept them in it from regulation all the way to the final shootout attempt. Huge, huge effort by our goaltender to steal a win.
- Ryan Johansen - INSANE shootout goal, but he also won 64% of his draws (most of all Jackets' centers) and had a helper on the Umberger goal. His penalty was ill timed, but he brought it all game and was one of the most dangerous guys on the ice.
- Mark Letestu - He didn't score tonight, but Letestu was a huge player all night, driving the play up ice on the PK, protecting the puck, and really leading tonight on both sides of the ice. Great performance by him all weekend.
- Power Play - With five opportunities, the Jackets came up totally blank, managing just two shots. Totally, painfully, unacceptable.
- Discipline - Now, I said in the game thread that I thought a few of the minor penalties were Dan O'Rourke's usual "quality" officiating, but the team still had some pretty serious penalty issues today, and only luck and some good PK work kept Detroit from punishing them for it. The Jackets need to clean up their act, back to back games or not.
- Jordin Tootoo - While there's some debate about his first questionable hit on Fedor Tyutin, the second one was pretty clearly an elbow to the head. Here's hoping the league does something about that.
This team needed about 20 games to figure themselves out, but once they did...wow! It doesn't get any easier, though - they'll be facing Vancouver on Tuesday night, then Chicago on Thursday. But if they can persevere...well, the last time the club went on a streak like this, Ken Hitchcock lead them into a postseason berth.
Stats and analysis suggest that we'll see this club come back to Earth, and come back hard...but stranger things have happened, and there is always a chance.
All signs point to this team having just 22 more games against the Western Conference. Let's leave them something to remember us by.
That's the anthem get yo' damn hands up!